First Med cruise on the MS Prinsendam was utterly fantastic: Prinsendam Cruise Review by jmk171
Overall Member Rating
First Med cruise on the MS Prinsendam was utterly fantastic
Destination: Europe - Western Mediterranean
Embarkation: Athens (Piraeus)
I ate in the Lido, La Fontaine dining room and the Pinnacle Grill. Lido was fine - nothing special though an hour sitting on that aft deck is quite nice. Yes - they got rid of trays. By doing so, according to one report, they've saved about 38% in food waste - significant and I approve. There was always a waiter with a tray happy to help me cart my goodies. La Fontaine was fine - we had really consistent service and no complaints. Yuli, my little favorite guy always had More a huge smile and can-do attitude. The Pinnacle was special - superb service, delectable filet mignon, attentive wine steward... I didn't love the lobster bisque or the souffle but can't win them all.
Day two was a lovely sea day spent lazing on deck and exploring the small ship. Note, the bingo calls were typically only once a day - either in the morning or the afternoon, depending on when the event was taking place. It was included in the culinary center, putt putt golf and spa specials announcements and in no way affected my enjoyment of my own pursuits. Anyone that tells you different is just a grump!
I visited the spa one time, taking advantage of an in port special. Jo was my massage therapist - she was very thorough and I felt great when I left her. Sam was my stylist...she did a great wash and blow out and my hair looked nice after she was done.
The wine policy is glorious - I bought wine in every port and consumed it in my room or on deck. Christopher in the gift shop was helpful and wrapped up the remaining bottles for transport home - I managed to get 8 back to Los Angeles!
Sea days were my favorites...the transatlantic crossing was really something special and I'd love to do it again. We had beautiful weather, smooth seas and lovely sunshine. It was all such a gift!
I wanted to mention a few specifics - Embarkation was a breeze - I was basically hand-held through the procedure. Internet is EXPENSIVE...$100 for 250 minutes. Crew pays only $20 for 250 minutes so HAL clearly makes big bucks here. My bags were never checked - I was known to buy wine but it was easy to bring vodka on board from a port too. One of my tablemates bought beer each port too. Brendan in the Explorations Cafe was fantastic - very friendly and one of the few people on board close to my age :) Entertainment was better than I expected...if you have the opportunity to see Aaron Shaw, Tenor or "The Unexpected Boys", do so - they're great performers who put a lot into their crafts.
The casino is so small...but it has craps, roulette, black jack, Texas hold 'em and slots. It was never crowded when I was there. Smoking wasn't a problem - I would say of the 700 passengers, maybe 30-40 smoked? They stuck to their side of the lido and there was never an issue that I could see. The crow's nest is nice - a great bow view with cushy chairs for reading or gazing. If you want a fridge, ask them to empty the honor bar - I did and enjoyed chilled drinks the whole trip - no cost.
Everyone works hard to please - they all smile (with the exception of the ice cream guy...) and seem happy to be there. I had such a fantastic time, no complaints, though there were initial hiccups with my room, I wish to make this a positive review of HAL in the Prinsendam. Less
Cabin review: 404
I was on deck 5, cabin 404 which was WAY forward. I could clearly hear the waves slapping the bow on noisier nights. There appeared to be many maintenance crew coming and going - not sure where to/from. The cabin itself was great - 2 portholes and a huge 'counter' space. Great partially walk in closet with storage cubbies - no tub but the shower was adequate. Engine noise / thrusters apparent when docking at ports but not apparent any other time. I would absolutely take that room again if it was available.
Port and Shore Excursions
Our last stop before the transatlantic journey, this lush island is such a paradise...I was there at the end of November and the sun was shining, many flowers in bloom and everything was just so green. I did the hop on/hop off here too - be sure to get off and wander. This was my favorite port - the sloping mountainside covered in red roofed homes was quite a sight as I made my way up in the cable car...another activity everyone must try. It's all just so picturesque.
I didn't try the Madeira wine - mistake! The food was good - lovely soft local cheese blended with al dente pasta, a small salad, chocolate mousse pie and wine for only 10 Euro. I also bought a bottle of local port and a nice big bag of local sea salt to take home to friends - such a nice touch.
Valletta is gorgeous - take the hop on - hop off (3 hours) or take a personalized tour - of the 13 ports, this was in my top 3 favorites. The people are friendly, the food was delicious, the weather lovely...don't miss the sail in. I would love to go back...I didn't enjoy Gozo nearly as much though it is less touristy and you get a better idea of the real lives the Gozoans live.
St Tropez was pretty to look at but, wow, you feel the Euro here. A nice sit down dinner - entree only - $30 euro...that's $45 US and doesn't include wine or dessert. Still, fun to walk around, lots of locals with dogs and kids... Gorgeous cashmere stores but, again, expensive. I did enjoy some French pastries - do yourself a favor and buy some St Tropez Cakes - a local specialty - YUM!
Not Seville but Cadiz...a little pretty spot which most use as a stepping stone to the train to Seville. Enjoy the large Catedral Plaza, take a quick walk around the main city which enjoys many gardens and a seascape view. Gorgeous little entryways which are tiled with colorful mosaics that I couldn't stop photographing. The third in my 'top three', I'd visit Spain again without hesitation, especially Cadiz.
Embarking from Athens, we headed out to our first port of Gabes Tunisia. A starkly industrial port, Gabes is known for it's appearance in the first Star Wars film from the 70's...it was Luke Skywalker's home of Tattoine. All sand and rocky hills, this barren landscape offered only two excursions - one involved a camel ride, the other a peak into the homes in Matmata which were built directly into the mountains. I chose the Matmata tour and found it, frankly, kind of boring. Another passenger commented it was the most interesting thing the did the whole trip to to each his own. The $74 excursion ended with a stop in a small local Souk or market which featured bulk teas and spices and even pieces of the Sahara desert. If you're in the market for saffron or a similarly expensive spice, this is the place for you. Otherwise, feel free to skip it - there are intense sales pressures from toothless (and harmless) locals.
I understand that Gabes is a relatively new port and the docking location itself is unappealing as, when we were there, large hills of sulfer dotted the area, lending a special aroma to our day. Perhaps it will get better as the experience is refined?
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